Heat exhaustion vs. heat stroke: what you need to know this summer

Heat exhaustion vs. heat stroke: what you need to know this summer

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - It's tempting to spend as much time outdoors as we can this time of year, especially if the pool or the lake calls your name! But there are obvious dangers: overheating, sunburn--just to name a few.

With heat index values reaching the upper 90s, the big concern in the hot and sultry weather is heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Do you know the difference?

Both are dangerous; heat stroke can oftentimes be fatal.

Let's take a look at both conditions and discuss what to do if you or loved ones experience symptoms.


In excessive heat, the very first sign (besides generally feeling hot and sweaty) of heat exhaustion is muscle cramping. You might start to feel faint or dizzy as well. Here's something to look for: cool, pale and clammy skin. The dizziness may turn to nausea or vomiting too. If you or someone you know starts to experience this, GET INSIDE TO COOL AIR-CONDITIONING IMMEDIATELY. Cool water and a compress will help restore your body too. When feeling better, and with supervision, take a cool shower and don't return outside to the heat. In many cases, this will help those who are in generally good health. However, seek immediate medical attention if there is any doubt.


Heat stroke is certainly the more severe condition. When heat stroke sets in, the body's temperature rises above 103 degrees. Besides a throbbing headache, one of the scariest symptoms is when the body STOPS sweating. Sweating is our body cooling itself down. When that stops, you know you're in trouble. Besides a rapid pulse and nausea, a person experiencing heat stroke may lose consciousness. As with heat exhaustion, you will need to get to a cool, air-conditioned space and apply a cool compress. But since heat stroke can be fatal, an immediate call to 9-1-1 is IMPERATIVE.

Remember, with proper treatment one can recover from heat exhaustion (always consult a Dr. if you are unsure of a person's status) but long-term damage can be caused by heat stroke including problems with liver, kidneys and even the brain. It is extremely important to make sure the very young and the very old especially have easy access to air conditioning and water.

For more information on heat related illness, tips and prevention, visit the Health line website at: Heat stroke and heat exhaustion

And by the way- don't forget to keep the pets cool too!

Meteorologist Andrew Kozak

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